Exploring counternarratives: African American student perspectives on aspirations and college access through a critical process of narrative inquiry

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Hayes, Danielle Christi

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This dissertation explored the perspectives of African American youth aspirations for college, their support systems, and their academic and social development towards college. The narratives of 7 student participants were used to gather perspectives of their supports and school circumstances in order to understand how some youth overcome or navigate the path towards higher education. This exploratory study was situated around two primary research questions: (a) In what ways do student aspirations intersect with capacity building systems (supports and interventions) for college, and (b) how does that intersection impact the academic and social development of students aspiring towards college? This study contributed to two areas. The first area had to do with providing an outlet for African American youth’s perspectives, particularly on the role that their aspirations and support systems play in their ability to access college. In the liberating tradition of critical race framework, accessing the experiences and perspectives “of the people” is the defining element of this study. We often hear about the pitfalls of minority students; their families and the communities from which they hail. There is general emphasis on this deficit perspective as the public education system strains under a multitude of contending factors. This dissertation, through the narratives of students, explored what students believed to work, what they perceived to fail, and the direction that their perspectives might contribute towards improved policy and practice. Thus, a second potential contribution of this study is its application for policy studies in that a participant-centered perspective is articulated. This multiframed approach demonstrated a more informed space from which to shape policy.



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